It is a common belief the police and private security companies are on top of crime trends in the areas they patrol, especially since so many incidents are now reported on social media groups.
However, simply because an incident of a mugging or car theft is reported on a community Whatsapp group does not make it a reported crime, says Charnel Hattingh, Head of Marketing and Communications for Fidelity ADT.
“These platforms are valuable for many reasons. For example, if an incident occurs and is posted it helps to quickly mobilise resources to search for the perpetrators or offer emergency help, and it makes the community aware,” she says.
“Victims must not leave things there though. It is vital they report the incident to the police so that it can be logged as a crime stat.”
Crime statistics help the police strategise and allocate the appropriate resources to suburbs, in conjunction with private security companies and other stakeholders, to protect lives by better managing crime, curbing trends and equipping the justice system.
The importance of this is hampered by people thinking the crime was petty and not worth reporting. Some people also say they have no faith in the justice system so “what is the point?”
But Hattingh says what people should consider is that petty criminals very often become serious offenders somewhere down the line – perhaps years after getting away with bag snatching or shoplifting which nobody bothered to report.
“This is the point of reporting crime. We don’t view any crime or criminal as petty and the public should not either. Crime needs to be reported so that criminals can be apprehended and dealt with in the justice system, or we run the risk of them progressing to more serious crimes before they are caught.
“Remember too that criminals associate with criminals. The arrest of a bag snatcher in your street could lead to a much bigger fish for the police or be linked to other crimes which have plagued the suburb.”
But have South Africans become too desensitised to bother?
Hattingh says it is an unfortunate reality that many people feel lucky to be alive and just want to move on after they have fallen victim to a criminals. Trauma is also often a reason victims prefer not to go to the police; they do not want to relive the events by giving a statement.
“We appreciate this and see it on a daily basis in our line of work, but we still encourage people to report crime and explain the importance of this to them.
“Private security companies, like Fidelity ADT, have resources in place to assist clients who are victims of crime with trauma support and through the process of reporting the crime to the police, so that it can be logged as an official crime statistic.
Hattingh concludes that unreported crimes have no value to the police or broader society.
“No crime is too small to be reported and every one of us can play a role in curbing crime in this country by reporting crime. The only value a crime has is that when it is reported it becomes intelligence for police and other security resources to use to fight criminals and get them off our streets.”